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The Harvest…

July 24, 2014

Some words you may be familiar with…

“To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them? 

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation…

…But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. (U. S. Constitution)

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.  Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and dedicated, can long endure…

…It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.  (Gettysburg Address)

And one I received just this week

…There is a great decision that every denomination has to make sometime in the development of its history. Every church also has to make it either at its beginning or a little later—usually a little later. Eventually every board is faced with the decision and has to keep making it, not by one great decision made once for all, but by a series of little decisions adding up to one great big one. Every pastor has to face it and keep renewing his decision on his knees before God. Finally, every church member, every evangelist, every Christian has to make this decision. It is a matter of judgment upon that denomination, that church, that board, that pastor, that leader and upon their descendants and spiritual children.

The question is this: Shall we modify the truth in doctrine or practice to gain more adherents? Or shall we preserve the truth in doctrine and practice and take the consequences? (A.W.Tozer)

Great proclamations of people who cared more for righteousness that friendliness, more for holiness than for peace, more for sacrifice than for popularity…

Today’s passage talks about not the implications of independence from England, not about the importance of Federal control over the state governments’ decisions on matters of great significance, but about the decisions you and I make today, decisions which each of our spiritual ancestors have had to make, decisions which  members, pastors, boards, and denominations must make to ensure that the Son of God who is the Truth and the Word of God which is the truth is never compromised for the sake of ease, friendliness, or numerical strength but that the Light of Truth forever brightens the darkest recesses of sin in which we constantly find ourselves.

This congregation, your pastor, your Session, your denomination is embroiled in a great controversy between social expediency and Biblical truthfulness, between social justice and God’s righteousness, between social relevance and eternal salvation.  In short we are in a battle for the very soul of the church and each and every one of us will need to decide for ourselves and with one another the direction we should go – to speak the truth in love, in our anger not to sin, and to seek faithfulness above success.

The truth is the world needs born again, dedicated, fanatical, Christians who refuse to compromise on the Word of God, for there is no other word, no other name, and no other means by which men can be saved.

Jesus uses the parable of one who has planted poisonous seed in another man’s field,   Bearded Darnel a wheat look-a-like which entangles its roots and grows up almost identical to wheat.  Its seeds though are black.  Its seeds are poisonous.  Its seeds can cause dizziness, vomiting and even death.  It still appears in wheat fields today but is sorted through by more expedient methods of sieving and fanning.

Jesus explains the parable.  The seed is the Word of God, that which you can hold in your hand today.  The very Word of God.  Not a word from God.  Not a human word in which you might someday find a word from God.  But THE Word of God wrote.  The One who sowed the good seed is Jesus.  This is His word, the Living Word of God.  Jesus is also the one who will judge in the ends times as to whether those in the world, the harvest, you, me and every single person who has ever lived, even the embryo’s we cast off for convenience,  will be judged to be wheat or tares.  Jesus doesn’t pray that we, the wheat, the members of the Kingdom be taken out or saved from the world but that we exist alongside the Bearded Darnel.  Wonder why there is such evil in the world, because according to the word of the Lord, it’s a part of his plan.  Oh there will be a harvest and there is a place where the black and poisonous seeds and the tares will be burned.  And a place where the righteous will shine like the sun!  Hallelujah.

The news headlines bring little in the way of relief… 

Hearts are hardened: 

Christians in Mosul, Iraq, have been told that they must leave, convert to Islam or accept dhimmitude (that is to be subject to Islamic rule), or die. A communique from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS) gave Christians a deadline of June 19, saying that if they do not leave or accept Islamic rule, “their destiny is the sword.”

Tragedies abound:

A dozen new wildfires have started in Oregon and six have started in Washington over the past 48 hours — covering more than 68,000 acres.

That adds to an already fierce wildfire season in the Northwest, with 25 large, uncontained fires, according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center. The number of fires classified as “large” has increased by five since yesterday….

Following the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crash Thursday — which killed all 298 on board — many questions remain.

Persecution continues:

Merian Ibrahim, a Christian sentenced to death for apostasy and then cleared, was rearrested June 24 as she tried to leave the country.  She is now in the hands of Americans at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan.

In Sri Lanka, a pastor and his family were attacked in their home by a village mob while they waited for police to show up for a prearranged meeting.

We don’t stop preaching because of the hardened hearts of those who mock the word of God, but in fact preach more fervently that in the hopes that their hearts will break before God.  We don’t try to weed out the unbelievers, the naysayers; those who trust in might rather than right as our roots are entangled.  But we must realize in the words of the Disney/Pixar Prophet Woody – “Somebody’s poisoned the water hole.”  We laugh but to be honest the world is in a mess.  We abort our children for economic reasons, leaving them to back to death in our cars.  We exchange natural sexual relations for unnatural ones committing shameful acts and received in ourselves the due penalty for our error. 

But the truth of God’s word still reigns and the grace of God is still available for those who would yet open their ears to hear, their eyes to see and their hearts to believe.  God has a better plan.

Romans 12 says: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

God has a way.  God has a means.  God has a desire to actually change some of the Bearded Darnel into the glorious gold of wheat.  And we are his plan of getting that news out.  We don’t uproot.  We don’t spray “round up.”  We don’t pretend it doesn’t exist.  Rather, we feed on the Word of God, the faith “that was once… and for all… entrusted to God’s holy people.

This challenge we face is nothing new.  Listen to the report of Jude, the brother of James and of Jesus himself as it comes to us from his letter addressed to the most general of audiences in the earliest days of the church… an eye witness account, not the deconstructive pontifications of a latter day scholar…and God’s word to us, each and every one of us gathered here today, those who listen over the radio and those who will listen to the podcast…

“Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James,

“To those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:

“Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.

“Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

“Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

“In the very same way, on the strength of their dreams these ungodly people pollute their own bodies, reject authority and heap abuse on celestial beings.  But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” Yet these people slander whatever they do not understand, and the very things they do understand by instinct—as irrational animals do—will destroy them.

“Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.

“These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead.  They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.

“Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”  These people are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.

“But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold.  They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.”  These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

“But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

“Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”

Let those with eyes to see, see and those with ears to hear, hear.  Come Holy Spirit.  Come.  Come as the wind and blow.  Come as the rain and cleanse.  Come as the fire and burn.  Convict us.  Convert us. Consecrate us, until we are wholly Thine.  In Jesus name I pray.  Amen

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